By Diana Chandler, Regional Reporter
HOUMA – Cleaning up the Deepwater Horizon oil spill has been a temporary economic boon for the fishermen employed in the operation, but what will they do to earn a living once the clean-up ends?
[img_assist|nid=6605|title=A shrimp trawler assists with the skimming operations on the north side of Barataria Bay.|desc=|link=none|align=left|width=100|height=56] That’s the opinion and concern of Wayne Hunt, pastor of Coteau Baptist Church here. A Disaster Relief-trained volunteer chaplain, he’s supporting Joe Arnold, Bayou Baptist Association director of missions, in efforts to set up chaplaincy stations to encourage fishermen in Port Fourchon, Point-Aux-Chenes and Cocodrie when the change occurs.
[img_assist|nid=6606|title=Coteau Baptist Church Pastor Wayne Hunt is assisting in efforts to set up chaplaincy stations to encourage fishermen.|desc=|link=none|align=left|width=100|height=66] “The problem’s going to begin when [British Petroleum] pulls out,” said Hunt. “Whenever it is they pull out and that cash flow stops, that’s when the ministry door is going to open.”
Some 2,500 who normally make their living fishing in the three communities are now making perhaps more than they’ve ever made in their lives while cleaning up the spill, Hunt surmised. British Petroleum, he said, is paying up to $1,800 a day for boats, $350 a day to captains and $200 a day to deckhands.
The unknown factor is whether fishermen will have a healthy catch when they return to their livelihoods.
“We don’t know. We just don’t know,” Hunt said. “What we do know is they’re going to have to place their faith in Christ. That’s what we do know.
“God fills the net.”
Hunt’s Coteau Baptist Church has not suffered financially from the catastrophe.
“So far, we’ve been relatively unscathed,” Hunt said. “I’ve not had more than one or two people at a time out of work at my church for the past three years.”
The great majority of Hunt’s 200 or so active members work in the oil industry or a support company, supplying products used in the industry. For the most part, Hunt said, his members who work directly in the oil field have lost the overtime pay they normally accrue, but have continued to give financially to the church.
On a Point-Aux-Chene chaplaincy visit in late July, Hunt spoke with BP company officials about establishing ministry stations in the three communities to provide prayer and chaplaincy support.
“They (BP officials) are very open to ministry at three sites,” Hunt said, and suggested special ministry events every few weeks, in addition to a continual presence. Plans have not been finalized.
“Hopefully, with our director of missions and other trained chaplains we can set up some sort of schedule” to counsel those who are stressed, Hunt said.
Arnold, based in Houma, issued an appeal in July to the 120 trained chaplains in Region Three of the Louisana Baptist Convention disaster relief team to volunteer to serve on-site in the communities. He’s moved a trailer to Grand Isle to house volunteers.
The bayou communities are tied to fishing and the oil industry, both of which are affected by the spill, and association leaders believe more victims will surface as they try to resume their livelihoods.
“Our emphasis right now is to try to … get some disaster relief chaplainsin some of these areas so people will have someone to talk to,” Hunt said.
When Feed the Children brought food donations for oil spill victims in July, Arnold asked chaplains to offer counseling and prayer at distribution sites set up in Venice, Port Sulfur, Cut Off and Grand Isle.
Hunt said the chaplains did not focus on proselytizing, but on sharing Jesus. The community has a high concentration of Catholics.
“Our hope is not in BP. Our hope is not in our jobs. Our hope is not in the government of men. Our hope is in Jesus Christ our Lord,” Hunt said. “God signs our paychecks. He will work out a way to provide for you and your family as long as your faith and trust are in him.”
Coteau Baptist Church became active in disaster relief after Hurricane Gustav two years ago. Hunt said the church has trained more than 50 people in the various aspects of disaster relief and